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An individual is a person
Person
A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

 or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality (or selfhood) is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive. Wants to be as independent as possible from society.

From the 15th century and earlier, and also today within the fields of statistics
Statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 and metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

, individual meant "indivisible", typically describing any numerically singular thing, but sometimes meaning "a person." (q.v. "The problem of proper name
Proper name
"A proper name [is] a word that answers the purpose of showing what thing it is that we are talking about" writes John Stuart Mill in A System of Logic , "but not of telling anything about it"...

s"). From the seventeenth century on, individual indicates separateness, as in individualism
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

.

Empiricism


Early empiricists
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 such as Ibn Tufail
Ibn Tufail
Ibn Tufail was an Andalusian Muslim polymath: an Arabic writer, novelist, Islamic philosopher, Islamic theologian, physician, vizier,...

 and John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 introduced the idea of the individual as a tabula rasa
Tabula rasa
Tabula rasa is the epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception. Generally proponents of the tabula rasa thesis favour the "nurture" side of the nature versus nurture debate, when it comes to aspects...

 ("blank slate"), shaped from birth by experience and education. This ties into the idea of the liberty and rights of the individual, society as a social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 between rational
Rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

 individuals, and the beginnings of individualism
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

 as a doctrine.

Hegel


Hegel regarded history as the gradual evolution of Mind (reason) as it tests its own concepts against the external world. Each time the mind applies its concepts to the world, the concept is revealed to be only partly true, within a certain context; thus the mind continually revises these inadequate or incomplete concepts so as to reflect a fuller reality (commonly known as the process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis). The individual comes to rise above his or her own particular and limited viewpoint, and to grasp that he or she is a part of a greater whole insofar as he or she is bound to family, a social context, and/or a political order.

Existentialism


With the rise of existentialism
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

, Kierkegaard rejected Hegel's notion of the individual as subordinated to the forces of history. Instead, he elevated the individual's subjectivity and capacity to choose his or her own fate. Later Existentialists built upon this notion. Nietzsche, for example, examines the individual's need to define his/her own self and circumstances in his concept of the will to power
The Will to Power
The Will to Power is the title given to a book of selectively reordered notes from the literary remains of Friedrich Nietzsche by his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche and Heinrich Köselitz...

 and the heroic ideal of the Übermensch
Übermensch
The Übermensch is a concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche posited the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself in his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra ....

. The individual is also central to Sartre's philosophy, which emphasizes individual authenticity, responsibility, and free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

. In both Sartre and Nietzsche (and in Nikolai Berdyaev
Nikolai Berdyaev
Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev was a Russian religious and political philosopher.-Early life and education:Berdyaev was born in Kiev into an aristocratic military family. He spent a solitary childhood at home, where his father's library allowed him to read widely...

), the individual is called upon to create his or her own values. Rather than rely on external, socially imposed codes of morality.

Martin Buber's I and Thou


In I and Thou
I and Thou
Ich und Du, usually translated as I and Thou, is a book by Martin Buber, published in 1923, and first translated to English in 1937.-Premise:Buber's main proposition is that we may address existence in two ways:...

, Martin Buber
Martin Buber
Martin Buber was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship....

 presents the individual as something that changes depending on how he or she is relating to the outside world, which can be in one of two ways. In the I-it relation, the individual relates to the external world in terms of objects that are separate from him or herself (an "I" looking at an "it"). In the I-thou relation, the individual has a personal connection to the external, and feels almost a part of whatever he or she is relating to; the subject-object dichotomy disappears (see Nondualism
Nondualism
Nondualism is a term used to denote affinity, or unity, rather than duality or separateness or multiplicity. In reference to the universe it may be used to denote the idea that things appear distinct while not being separate. The term "nondual" can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice,...

).

Buddhism


In Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, the concept of the individual lies in anatman, or "no-self." According to anatman, the individual is really a series of interconnected processes that, working together, give the appearance of being a single, separated whole. In this way, anatman, together with anicca, resembles a kind of bundle theory
Bundle theory
Bundle theory, originated by the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume, is the ontological theory about objecthood in which an object consists only of a collection of properties, relations or tropes....

. Instead of an atomic, indivisible self distinct from reality (see Subject-object problem
Subject-object problem
The subject–object problem, a longstanding philosophical issue, is concerned with the analysis of human experience, and of what within experience is "subjective" and what is "objective."...

), the individual in Buddhism is understood as an interrelated part of an ever-changing, impermanent universe (see interdependence
Interdependence
Interdependence is a relation between its members such that each is mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a simple dependence relation, which implies that one member of the relationship can function or survive apart from the other....

, Nondualism
Nondualism
Nondualism is a term used to denote affinity, or unity, rather than duality or separateness or multiplicity. In reference to the universe it may be used to denote the idea that things appear distinct while not being separate. The term "nondual" can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice,...

, reciprocity
Reciprocity (social psychology)
Reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. People categorize an action as kind by viewing its consequences and also by the person's fundamental intentions. Even if the consequences are the same, underlying...

).

Objectivism


Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism....

's Objectivism
Objectivism (Ayn Rand)
Objectivism is a philosophy created by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand . Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception...

 regards every human as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his or her own life, a right derived from his or her nature as a rational being. Individualism and Objectivism hold that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among humans, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights
Individual rights
Group rights are rights held by a group rather than by its members separately, or rights held only by individuals within the specified group; in contrast, individual rights are rights held by individual people regardless of their group membership or lack thereof...

 — and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations. Since only an individual woman or man can possess rights, the expression "individual rights" is a redundancy (which one has to use for purposes of clarification in today’s intellectual chaos), but the expression "collective rights" is a contradiction in terms. Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority
Tyranny of the majority
The phrase "tyranny of the majority" , used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a dissenting individual's interest that the individual would be...

 has no right to vote away the rights of a minority
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

See also

  • Action theory
    Action theory (philosophy)
    Action theory is an area in philosophy concerned with theories about the processes causing willful human bodily movements of more or less complex kind. This area of thought has attracted the strong interest of philosophers ever since Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics...

  • Atom (disambiguation)
    Atom (disambiguation)
    An atom is a basic unit of matter consisting of a nucleus within a cloud of one or more electrons.Atom may also refer to:In mathematic:* Atom , a minimal measurable set* Atom...

  • Consciousness
    Consciousness
    Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

  • Cultural identity
    Cultural identity
    Cultural identity is the identity of a group or culture, or of an individual as far as one is influenced by one's belonging to a group or culture. Cultural identity is similar to and has overlaps with, but is not synonymous with, identity politics....

  • Existentialism
    Existentialism
    Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

  • Identity
    Identity (social science)
    Identity is a term used to describe a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations . The term is used more specifically in psychology and sociology, and is given a great deal of attention in social psychology...

  • Independent
    Independence
    Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

  • Individualism
    Individualism
    Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

  • Individuality
  • Person
    Person
    A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

  • Self (philosophy)
    Self (philosophy)
    The philosophy of self defines the essential qualities that make one person distinct from all others. There have been numerous approaches to defining these qualities. The self is the idea of a unified being which is the source of consciousness. Moreover, this self is the agent responsible for the...

  • Self (psychology)
    Self (psychology)
    The psychology of self is the study of either the cognitive and affective representation of one's identity or the subject of experience. The earliest formulation of the self in modern psychology derived from the distinction between the self as I, the subjective knower, and the self as Me, the...

  • Self (sociology)
  • Self (spirituality)
    Self (spirituality)
    Religious views on the self vary widely. The self is a complex and core subject in many forms of spirituality. Two types of self are commonly considered - the self that is the ego, also called the learned, superficial self of mind and body, "false self", an egoic creation, and the Self which is...

  • Structure and agency
    Structure and agency
    The question over the primacy of either structure or agency in human behavior is a central debate in the social sciences. In this context, "agency" refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. "Structure", by contrast, refers to the recurrent...